React.js or Node.js - which is better?

Sunscrapers Team

27 January 2023, 7 min read

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What's inside

  1. Node.js characteristics
  2. React.js characteristics
  3. When to choose React or Node.js?
  4. Read more

Both React.js and Node.js are JavaScript libraries. React.js is mainly used to build user interfaces, while Node.js is used to build server-side applications.

As you can see from the first sentence, it’s easy to imagine that they can be used for different purposes. Let's take a look at the specifications of each library and the differences between them. Then figure out which one is better.

Node.js characteristics

It’s an event-driven, server-side runtime built on the V8 Engine made by Google. Thanks to that, you can write your application in JavaScript, which can be a considerable upside, as some people wouldn’t need to learn a new language.

One of its main characteristics is speed - it can be used to build high-performance applications to non-blocking I/O API and single-threaded event looping. What’s also great is the fact that the application can be run within Node.js runtime on macOS, Windows, and Linux - without changing the source code.

Node.js advantages

Let’s take a look at the main advantages of Node.js:

  1. Easy scalability

Node.js is easily scalable mainly because of its nature (being asynchronous and event-driven). It offers excellent maintenance of long-running connections with just a single thread with an event loop switched between listening for data and handling the current requests.

Additionally, it offers non-blocking I/O, which makes it efficient and fast. It makes Node.js an interesting source for web servers.

Even more interesting is that microservices can be easily implemented using this framework, boosting the application's scalability.

  1. Learning curve

Many engineers know JavaScript quite well, as it is widely used in frontend engineering, making it easy to learn and adapt.

  1. High performance

When compared to other server-side scripting languages, Node.js is very fast. It was mentioned already in point number one.

  1. Community

Node.js offers a great community of experienced engineers, which is essential nowadays.

  1. Caching

Node.js has a significant advantage in caching - it simply allows you to store data or files locally on your computer and access it quickly whenever needed. It’s a game-changer for high-traffic websites.

  1. Time & money

Since Node.js uses the same language for the frontend and backend, it can dramatically decrease the time and cost needed to develop any application.

  1. Cross-platform

Node.js is excellent for creating cross-platform applications as you can package your app into executable files for many operating systems without recompiling the code.

  1. NPM

Last but not least - Node.js comes with a native tool for installing and managing different packages on the internet.

Node.js disadvantages

At the same time, some of the disadvantages of Node.js include:

  1. Problems with API

This is one of the biggest issues - a lot of users are reporting the fact that APIs are unstable and you need to pay extra attention to it whenever migrating between different versions of Node.js.

  1. Library Support System

Node lacks strong support of libraries, so very often has to rely on third-party solutions to do things that are not possible within the original scope of Node.js functionalities.

  1. Asynchronous programming model

It’s often mentioned that the asynchronous programming model can cause problems with debugging the application and may be considered a drawback by some engineers.

React.js characteristics

React.js is a library of UI components designed by Facebook and open-sourced later on. It’s truly flexible, as the API has no dependencies on other JavaScript libraries. It was created in 2013 and is currently widely used across many web applications.

React.js advantages

Let’s take a look at the main advantages which made it so popular among engineers worldwide:

  1. It’s very easy to create dynamic applications because it requires limited coding as opposed to JavaScript.

  2. Performance

React.js uses Virtual DOM, which allows for creating web applications faster. It compares the previous state of the component and updates only the items that were changed as opposed to updating all of the components again.

  1. Reusable components

A single application consists of many components that have their logic and controls and can be easily reused within the system - which again reduces the development and maintenance time.

  1. Unidirectional data flow

When designing React.js apps, you often nest child components within the parent one. And since the data flows in a single direction, it’s easier to debug errors.

  1. Learning curve

React.js is very easy to learn as it combines basic HTML and JavaScript concepts with additions. Of course, it will take some time to understand the whole library, but still, it’s relatively easy.

  1. It’s great for both mobile and web applications. There is a framework - React Native, that is based on React that is getting more popular for creating mobile applications.

  2. Debugging

React.js offers great dedicated tools for debugging - a chrome extension developed by Facebook will help you with that.

  1. SEO-friendly

Traditional Javascript frameworks & libraries tend to have issues with SEO. React.js overcomes the problem and helps search engines to navigate the application easily - it’s mainly because React.js apps can run on the server, and the Virtual DOM renders and returns content as a regular web page.

React.js disadvantages

As always, every framework library has some drawbacks. Let’s take a look at the downsides of React.js:

  1. High pace of development

Since React.js is constantly developed, some people may treat it as a disadvantage, as engineers need to constantly update their knowledge about this library.

  1. Documentation

It is often said that the documentation of React.js could be better - it’s strictly connected with the point above - the pace of its development makes it hard to document everything properly.

  1. Other technologies involved

Since React.js is taking care mainly of the view part of the app, you still will need other tools to create the rest of the application.

  1. JSX

Some people tend to treat the usage of JSX (combination of XML and JavaScript) as a disadvantage, as it may get complex.

When to choose React or Node.js?

Once we have listed the good and bad sides of both technologies, let’s try to figure out what are the best use cases for both of them - as it is evident that there is no “one-size-fits-all” solution when it comes to technology.

This may not answer the question of “which is better”, as there is none. It all comes down to business requirements, the specification of the application itself, and sometimes to the engineering team composition.

  • Best use cases for Node.js:

Let’s take a look at the best use cases for using Node.js technology:

  1. Streaming web applications
  2. Real-time Chat-bots
  3. Big data and analytics solutions
  4. Single Page Applications
  5. Apps using Microservices Architecture
  6. Web extraction and automation tools
  7. IoT solutions
  • At the same time, React.js is great for:
  1. Social Media applications
  2. Messaging applications
  3. E-Commerce applications
  4. Data visualization tools

As you can easily see, the types of use cases are different for each technology, so it’s hard to say one is better than the other. It all comes down to details, that’s why - as always - we are suggesting consulting experienced engineers (like our team at Sunscrapers) that will help you analyze your idea and (what’s even more critical) your plans for the future to make the best choice.

And remember - there is also a possibility to use both Node.js and React.js simultaneously and take the best benefits from both technologies.

Read more

  1. Top 8 resources to learn React and JavaScript
  2. How to avoid prop-drilling in React without using Redux (Part 1)
  3. Single Responsibility Principle in React applications (Part 1)
  4. Which framework to choose - Django or Node.js?
  5. Python vs. Node.js - which backend technology is for you?

Sunscrapers Team

Sunscrapers empowers visionary leaders to ride the wave of the digital transformation with solutions that generate tangible business results. Thanks to agile and lean startup methods, we deliver high-quality software at top speed and efficiency.




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